When I brought my new bride, Barbara, to Greenville, Maine, I wanted her to get to know the local characters. On the list were George Charlie Chaplin Falkner and his jolly wife Mary Curtis Falkner who escaped a life in the circus. They were a couple as different from each other as anything but they were happy, delicious folks.
Mary Falkner had an inauspicious start. Born to a young lady who had a reputation about town, she was about to be sold to the circus (so they say) when her father, a farm hand who worked for Old John Curtis, came to the rescue. He begged Old John and his wife, Susan, to take the child and raise her as their own. So they did that very thing; Mary was taken into the Curtis family and raised as John and Susan’s daughter. The biological mother and father we can now dismiss from the story as Mary became a true Curtis. They saved her from the circus and gave her a happy life.
Mary grew to be an immensely large lady; she must have weighed 250 pounds and she fit the pattern of big jolly people. She laughed much and her infectious merriness of life was like sunshine. She was a sweetheart and appeared to be one of the happiest women I ever knew.
George fit the pattern of Charlie Chaplin. A dapper fellow of small stature, he stood straight as an arrow. He usually dressed in a suit and his walk was reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin -arms by side, step lightly, shuffle shuffle, step step. George was less than half the size of his wife. And he enjoyed life – how could he not with Mary, that delightful lady? They were greatly disappointed when Bob their son, who was a genius, could not make it in college but they carried on with their usual love of life. Bob lived with his parents his whole life and helped them in their work as caretakers of several camps.
As a pair George and Mary Falkner were very interesting. The first time Barbara ever saw this couple he came into the room, ran toward his wife, and jumped up to hug her. She reached out, caught him like a pillow and clasped him to her ample bosom. They were just good time, plainspoken regular people, content with their lot in life, happy with each other and willing to share the laughter.
George and Mary were taking care of a camp near Borestone Mountain and he called me one day to order some gas to be delivered. Their boy, Bob, was to receive the 4 gas tanks at a little Pond near Borestone where the trail starts to go up the mountain. I did not know when we started up that mountain what the day would bring. Barbara and I headed out to the camp with the tanks and when we arrived George took me out back to show me some huge trout. ‘George’, shouted Large Mary, ‘You are not supposed to show anyone those fish.’ (Poachers were always on the lookout for big trout and Mary and George were responsible to keep the place private.) So George and I hurried back out front.
So there we were with the tanks which needed to be ferried somehow to a large camp across the pond. I put the tanks on the wharf and Bob began to load them in their small aluminum boat. ‘Why don’t you throw them in the water and we can tow them’, I suggested, but Bob continued putting them in the boat. So George and I stood and watched as Bob loaded the four 200 pound tanks.
This will, of course, destroy the balance of the boat as it will change the center of gravity. The higher the point of gravity the more likely the boat will be to tip. George and I waited to see what would happen next. Bob, ignoring my sage (I thought) advice, put his foot on the edge of the heavily and ungainly loaded boat and went to step in. Immediately, it flipped right over, Bob and the tanks disappeared under the water and the bottom of the boat was all there was to see.
George was wringing his hands as he worried about his son and the tanks. But then Bob popped up from under the water. On all sides of him popped up the tanks, which, filled with gas (which is lighter than water) rose to the surface almost more quickly than Bob did. And at that point George and I gave way to laughter. It was as if I was in a silent movie show complete with slapstick humor and Charlie Chaplin by my side. Those tanks bobbed around in the water until we righted the boat and per my original idea, tied the tanks with a rope and towed them across the water.
And so went a typical experience of laughter and merriment with the Falkner family. As Barbara and I drove off in our truck we looked back to see Jolly Mary, Dapper George Charlie Chapin Falkner and their still drenched son Bob waving and smiling until we rounded a bend and could see them no more.